Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/04/02

“Machines,” Tory muttered. “Don’t even know they are.” He shook his head, sighed. It was maddening, frustrating, infuriating, and the saddest, most awful thing at the same time. “Humans,” he crossed his arms on his desk, and rested his head on them. “Stupid, fucking humans. Don’t even know.”

There had been a time when he believed in other people. When he believed in the world. When the future looked good to him. He remembered it, burned into his memory forever, something he could never get rid of. Life would be much simpler if he could, which was most likely why he couldn’t. Life was never simple.

He sat back up and stared out the window, into the dark of night. “Normal people are asleep by now, you know that.” He always told himself such things. “Normal people actually can sleep at night.” Instead of having nightmares, and tossing and turning, and tearing the covers loose, and waking up coated in sweat, wondering why he felt like he’d run too far on a scalding hot day. And that dry, cardboard taste in his mouth. What was that all about. “Doesn’t happen to normal people.”

He knew why he couldn’t sleep. That’s when his brain cells were unrestrained. When all the rules, all the lines in the sand, all the social crap that kept him in check during the day, went away. And his brain thought what it wanted to, said what it wanted to, talked to him about all the crap that was life, all the shit people did because. Normal.

“Fucking robots.” Tory shook his head. “And don’t even know it.” He shook his head again, “And you can’t explain it to them. ‘Cause. Seeing things as they really are is against the rules.” He closed his eyes, and tried to smell the darkness of the night. “I wonder what time it is?” He was still up, because it was better than going to sleep, and letting his brain do whatever.

“Mow the yard every Saturday morning, neighbor.” His next door neighbor was outside, from late February to late December, every Saturday morning, with that damn noisy lawn mower, making certain every fucking blade of Kentucky Fescue 31 in his lawn was the exact same height. Then there was pulling everything that wasn’t exactly the same. Every blade of grass had to be the same kind. All trillion of them. And the sidewalk, driveway, and curb had to have razor sharp edges. Not one blade of grass could reach over concrete. That would be a sin. Same thing with the flower beds. “Idiot spends $300 or more on mulch every year.”

Tory knew. “It’s an investment. I take care of it so it grows in value.” He knew why the neighbor wasted every Saturday. Just like why every car in the neighborhood was spotless. No dust. No dirt. No mud. No pollen. No scratches in the paint. “Shiney!” And his brain cells said, “That’s a $55,000 investment in my driveway.” An SUV with no dents, dings, or scratches, that never went off road, that slowed down for every bump, that almost stopped before making turns, and did stop for speed bumps. “I can’t hurt my baby!”

Fucking robots. That’s what people were. Nothing but robots. Programmed to want the same things. To want the same lives. To want more, and more, and more. And Tory wasn’t. Tory saw them for what they were. Saw the lie they lived. The lack of depth to their lives. Take the neighbor’s car, and house away, and he became nothing. “A failure,” that’s what they said. “A failure. Like Tory.”

Yeah, he knew. He knew what they thought, when they saw his yard, with dead leaves and weeds all over it. His car, with the chipped paint, and door dings, and in spring, the pine pollen shell that coated it. “Get with the program!”

That’s what it was. A program. A script. “A successful human is defined as follows.” Tory knew all the rules, all the supposed to do things. All the definitions of success. Of being a real person. And he knew it was all a lie.

Every last bit of it.

A lie.

“Stupid, fucking machines.”

Tory wondered when he’d finally wander off to try to sleep.

712 words

Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s fourth week. You can read about the challenge here. I’ve enjoyed writing for it every week so far. Please, go read her short tale this week, and any others that show up.


I’m Not All Pessimistic

As the saying goes, “And now for something completely different.”

There are many people who feel, probably quite accurately, I am a pessimist. A strong pessimist at that. As an example, my views on the US economy, and the global economy are best expressed as, “It’s bad. And it’s going to get much, much worse.”

I’ve mentioned, on Facebook, such news items as the Bill Gates story, in which Mr. Gates says more and more jobs being performed by robots, resulting in growing numbers of unemployed, unless the unemployed are willing to work for less that the cost of maintaining the robots.

I’ve spoken with my doctor about the pending demise of such employment powerhouses as Federal Express and UPS, as indicated by companies like Amazon investing in package delivery drones to use for direct from their warehouse to your front door package delivery. The demise of such employment powerhouses as McDonalds, where making burgers, fries, and McNuggets becomes a task performed by robots.

The employment picture is not going to get any better. It’s going to get worse. And worse.

I could continue alone this negative path, and give links to countless stories indicating the end is coming. But that’s such a negative view.

What I have not spoken of, on Facebook, Twitter or others, and have not spoken of with friends, through e-mail, or face-to-face, is a much more optimistic view of what is happening, and what will continue to happen.

It is my view the existing, conventional economy is dying. Look at the closure rates of brick and mortar businesses. Look at the collapse of the music industry. Look at the collapse of the publishing industry. Can you remember a few years ago, when there were small bookstores like Waldens, and B Daltons. Remember Borders? How long with Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble survive?

Examine the television business. What is the impact Internet data streaming is having on that? What’s happening with Cable and Satellite TV? How are they coping with Netflix, Roku, and others?

Even Wal-Mart is not the profit and growth machine it was a few years ago. What does that mean?

The economy is changing. It’s becoming a very different, very highly optimized, very profit oriented, very controlled process. And people are becoming more and more of an impediment to profitability. Wages reduce profit. Benefits reduce profit. Accidents reduce profit. Mistakes reduce profit. Humans reduce profit.

As a result, there are less and less humans working in the economy. Because that’s how to increase profit.

Yeah. A very negative, pessimistic view indeed.

But, look more closely. What do you find. People are working, but not inside the economy. They’re creating new jobs, new businesses, new ways of earning a living that don’t depend on having a job, working for a company.

For example, look once more at the music industry, with independent musicians, taking control of their careers, producing their own music, and marketing it themselves, resulting in bands like Abney Park, and Cruxshadows. Bands outside the corporate world, making their own path to success.

Look at the book publishing business, and the growth of indie publishing. Writers producing their own books, publishing them on their own, and no longer needing the approval of a giant publishing house to become successful. My Kindle Reader account on Amazon shows this trend clearly, given 90% of the books I’ve purchased in the past four years came from independent writers, and small publishing houses. Titles you can’t find at Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million. Independent publishers, with fiction types and kinds, and stories a big publishing house wouldn’t touch.

Then, look at what happens outside the conventional economy, at the small, independent business level. Some people refer to it as the gig job market. People have started offering their skills, their talents, directly to others. It’s the old neighborhood market, returning, with a vengeance, outside the control of the conventional economy. So far outside, it can’t be measured.

Is the unemployment rate really less than 10%? Or is that a way of hiding the number of people not participating in the conventional, working for a living, economy? Search for yourself. Check the Internet. See what you can find about people working in unexpected ways.

Don’t get me wrong on this. I do expect things to get much worse, with many people becoming unemployed, under employed, and living in or near poverty as defined by the economic measures of the country.

I also expect the changes in the economy to continue, with the unmeasurable part of the economy growing larger, becoming the dominant way people make a living. Independently of companies, and their profits, and automation, and their management of human resources.

I may well comment more on this topic in the coming months. Time will tell. But for now, I simply wanted to show I’m not as pessimistic as I sound. In fact, I have a very optimistic view of human adaptability, and ingenuity. I believe the old economy, and its ways of doing things is dying and the new economy, with independent people determining their own economic destinies and fates is replacing it. I don’t expect this transition to be pleasant, but I do believe it’s already in progress, and is growing each year, and will, in the end, change our society into something better than it is today.

I’m not all pessimistic. Remember that.


#FTT 15 : When The Moon Exploded…

“When the moon exploded…”

“No!” I screamed. “Not another apocalypse tale!” I shook my head, and slammed my fists on my desk. “We’re done!”

The writer laughed. “It’s not an apocalypse tale.”

“Then how does the moon explode?”

“As I was saying. When the moon exploded with colors, everyone knew Graphsans had pulled off the most impressive, audacious, and artistic graffiti stunt of all time.”

I stared at him, “Graffiti?”

“Yes. The moon explodes with color. Yellow, red, orange and pink. In a tie-dyed pattern,”


“Yes”, he grinned. “It’s the story of the greatest graffiti artist in history performing his greatest work. Painting the moon, so everyone can see it. A work of art that lasts for centuries, slowly fading as the solar wind erodes the paints.”

I shook my head, “But, how would you explain the paint? The artwork?”

“A private rocket, launched at the moon.”

I wrote a few quick notes in my notebook. “Thank you.” I nodded at him, “Your idea is certainly different.” I stood, and held out my hand. “We’ll make our decision in the next couple of week, and we’ll be in touch.”

After he left, I sat there, “A graffiti artist paints the moon?” I shook my head. “Really?” I wrote a few notes to put into a more detailed review to present to the board. Then I used push-to-talk to have the next writer sent in.

After he introduced himself, I asked what his proposal was.

“When the moon exploded…”

What was it with these people? Did everyone want something with the moon exploding in some way? I interrupted him, “Not another story about the moon exploding.”

The writer sighed, “When the moon exploded, its surface covered with mushroom clouds, destroying the invading robot armada’s solar system base, everyone rejoices. It is a turning point in the war, when we take the war to the aliens.”

Once more, I took a few quick notes, thanked the writer for his time, said we’d be in touch, and had the next writer sent in. As I waited for her to enter, I wondered I my mother was right, and I should have picked a sensible career, like explosives technician, or underwater safety inspector.

But like any son, I’d ignored my mother’s advice, and entered show business.

I shook my head. “Gods, but I’m such an idiot sometimes.” And I wondered what other insane ideas for a science fiction movie I’d have to wade through before it was quitting time.

415 words

I wrote this for Week 15 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.